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European Le Mans Series

Albuquerque Beats Vergne to Paul Ricard Pole by 0.010s

Albuquerque nets United’s fifth straight ELMS LMP2 pole at the end of an eventful qualifying group…

Photo: ELMS

Filipe Albuquerque scored his fifth consecutive European Le Mans Series pole position by beating G-Drive Racing’s Jean-Eric Vergne by a narrow 0.010s margin at Paul Ricard.

Albuquerque set the No. 22 Oreca 07 Gibson that he shares with Phil Hanson on pole for today’s four-hour Le Castellet 240 race with a time of 1:56.951.

The Portuguese driver continued his 100 percent record of topping ELMS qualifying sessions this season, having taken pole for the previous rounds at Paul Ricard and Spa.

Albuquerque also put United’s Oreca on pole for the final two races of the 2019 campaign, making this his fifth in a row.

LMP2 qualifying turned into a five-minute scramble for flying laps after an accident for Anders Fjordbach in the High Class Racing Oreca resulted in a red flag interruption.

Vergne, driving G-Drive’s Aurus-badged Oreca, hit the top of the order with a time of 1:58.529 but this was subsequently improved on by Thomas Laurent, Jonathan Hirschi and then Albuquerque, whose flyer would hold out as the session-best.

Double E champion Vergne then mustered an improvement on his final lap, but fell just a hundredth of a second short of snatching pole away from the United driver.

Hirschi recovered from an earlier spin to post the third-best time aboard the Duqueine Oreca, eight tenths off pole, while Loic Duval was fourth for Algarve Pro Racing.

United’s sister Oreca qualified fifth in the hands of Alex Brundle, while Ben Hanley set the DragonSpeed Oreca in sixth ahead of Cool Racing’s Nicolas Lapierre.

In LMP3, David Droux came across the line right at the end of the session to put Realteam Racing on pole as Ligier JS P320 Nissans occupied the top eight positions.

Droux displaced Malthe Jakobsen at the top of the charts, beating the RLR MSport driver by 0.357 seconds.

Third-quickest was United Autosports’ Duncan Tappy, whose Ligier will start on the same row as its teammate car qualified by Paul Ricard and Spa pole man Wayne Boyd.

Niko Kari was fifth for Eurointernatinal, while the best of the Duqueine D08/M30 Nissans was the Nielsen Racing car of Garett Grist in ninth on a 2:10.741.

GTE qualifying was put on hold for around 40 minutes to allow for repairs to the barriers on the left-side coming onto the Mistral Straight after a crash for Michael Fassbender.

The actor and driver of the No. 93 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR walked away from a heavy impact with the tire wall after skidding off the right-side curb.

Following an extensive cleanup, Alessio Picariello put Proton’s sister Porsche on pole with a time of 1:54.508.

This set the Italian around two tenths ahead of Nicklas Nielsen, who is a late addition to the No. 60 Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GTE Evo lineup this weekend in place of Andrea Piccini.

In third was Nielsen’s fellow Ferrari factory driver Daniel Serra in the No. 51 AF Corse machine, ahead of Kessel Racing’s David Perel.

The GTE times were quicker than the LMP2 and LMP3 efforts because of light rainfall arriving just before the prototype sessions started.

The Le Castellet 240 is set to get underway at 6:30 p.m. CEST (12:30 p.m. EST).

RESULTS: Qualifying

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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